Association of Nova Scotia Museums

Unlocking Community Museum Collections 


In 2022 ANSM received a federal grant to develop a digitization strategy for cultural collections. Many community museums in Nova Scotia contain artifacts associated with Nova Scotia’s four founding cultures: Mi’kmaq, African Nova Scotians, Acadians, and Gaels. The management of these artifacts most often follows historical (colonial) methods and as a result disassociates these artifacts from their cultural context.

ANSM’s intent with the Unlocking strategy was to work towards improved and culturally appropriate information on CollectiveAccess, the open-source database used by ANSM’s Advisory Service members, as well as 100+ museums across Canada. A digitization strategy would lead to these artifacts becoming accessible on, ANSM’s collections portal, which would increase cultural groups’ access to these collections.

Nine Unlocking sessions were held across the province, which brought museums and cultural communities together to discuss how museums can better serve these communities. However, these conversations extended far beyond digitization and collections, and resulted in many calls to action for ANSM and museums. With help from our community partners, we have distilled key messages and calls to action which highlight the Unlocking work underway with the Acadian, African Nova Scotian, Gaelic and Mi’kmaq communities.

Thank you to everyone who participated. While we are still drafting the action plan that will carry this initiative forward, we are very excited to share that some work has already begun or is being planned. This includes:

  • The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre hosted an engagement day for museum workers to learn about Mi’kmaq culture and how we can work together.
  • The ANSM board held a strategic planning retreat and is now writing a new 4 year plan that will address the Unlocking calls to action.
  • We have hit the pause button on our museum studies certificate program and will be updating it to ensure that it incorporates Mi’kmaq, African Nova Scotian, Acadian, and Gaelic perspectives.
  • The CollectiveAccess database used by 60 community museums is being translated into French.
  • A volunteer is starting to review the “Made in Nova Scotia” section of This resource shares profiles of artists, craftspeople, makers and manufacturers, and links to their products and creations in museum collections. The volunteer will be conducting research and adding cultural affiliations to profiles, making it easier to identify cultural connections.
  • A funding application has been submitted to conduct an assessment of audiovisual materials in museum collections and make a plan to get these recordings and stories back into cultural communities.
  • A funding application has been submitted to share the story of Father Clarence d’Entremont and make his writings on the history of the Cape Sable region and Acadian history available online.
  • A summer internship position that focuses entirely on addressing Unlocking calls to action has been circulated to post-secondary institutions.

We recognise that there is much work to be done and this is just the beginning. Click any of the links below to learn more.